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E.P.M. - 87%

dragon_dxs, September 28th, 2008

I'm not going to waste your time by writing how other people's arguments on why this is a bad album are wrong starting far too many pointless disagreements, I'm merely going to present my own arguments and hope you find them helpful.

DragonForce have created a very strong power metal album in Ultra Beatdown and it is their most impressive work since Valley of the Damned. The introduction of track 1, 'Heroes of Our Time', while containing the same DragonForce feeling from previous songs is immediately recognisable as a new song (a trend which will continue throughout) though quickly changes to the DragonForce formula and works as a pleasing testament to their previous work.

After that, however, there is a noticeable change in the direction of this album. From the first few seconds of 'The Fire Still Burns' you realise DragonForce have tried hard with their new intros... and have definitely succeeded! While the structure of the songs remains true to DragonForce's trademark sound each song is clearly different from the last (and all others). A point made that much more obvious as you listen through the album for a second time and recognise parts from particular songs that have stuck in your memory... something that couldn't be said about Inhuman Rampage!

As for the instruments, the guitars produce their usual melodies and one-note riffs during the verses and chorus which are, fortunately, spiced up by some nice underlying fills that work well. The drums see a much needed improvement, given Mackintosh's great skill, with varying drum riffs throughout the album instead of the constant repetition of the one drum beat continued through every song on previous albums. The bass is, unfortunately, very hard to hear and so not much can be said about it. The keyboard sees a great step forward as it now plays a much larger part in most songs with sections with a lot of focus placed on it and it doesn't disappoint giving a strong accompaniment to the guitars and creating high-quality riffs by itself as well. There are also the usual assortment of "video game" sounds in the album, however, this time they are used to a much greater effect, working very well with the music, rather than just being placed in "for fun". The vocals complement the songs well, but still produce the same lyrics heard over the last three albums. While the topics don't necessarily need changing, the words do.

However, fans mustn't fret because even though the songs are now original, they still contain the factors you want from a DragonForce, fast, melodic riffs, a strong drum track continually beating away through every song, and the trademark insanely fast solos, which now have (perhaps to some peoples relief) been shortened by about a minute on average.

Some of the most welcome parts of the album come at the end if you have the special edition version with 'Strike of the Ninja' and 'Scars of Yesterday', the two bonus tracks. 'Strike of the Ninja' has a brilliantly portrayed urgency about it, emphasised by the fact that the song finishes after just 3 minutes, a usual half DragonForce song. 'Scars of Yesterday' then brings a completely new sound to DragonForce with an unmelodic intro that contrasts well with their previous songs, it soon transforms into another classic DragonForce song, but still has a feel about it which brings it above average.

Other songs worth a mention are 'The Last Journey Home' which marks DragonForce's first slower song that isn't the classic "ballad" that is included on each album. In reality it sounds like a power metal song that has been written at their usual tempo and has then been slowed down, however, the effect works well nonetheless. 'A Flame for Freedom' also warrants a look as their best written "ballad" since the original 'Starfire' and it's a welcome return after the disappointment of 'Dawn Over a New World' and 'Trail of Broken Hearts'

For those lucky enough to obtain the Japanese version, the Japanese-only bonus song 'E.P.M.' named after DragonForce's self-proclaimed genre, extreme power metal, brings a very nice idea to life with a brilliantly written "video game" intro that then transforms to the classic DragonForce instruments at an increased tempo.

This album is a great improvement on Inhuman Rampage and is well worth a listen. All in all a very well written and together album which brings a new sound to DragonForce while keeping the charm that many fans have fallen in love with!